Physical Therapy for Arthritis


What is Arthritis?

Aching joints, inflamed muscles, and pain that hampers functionality and movement is an apt way to describe arthritis. The inflammation of one or multiple joints results in various types of physical pain causing arthritis. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It causes pain and stiffness in the joints and worsens with age. Arthritis affects people over the age of 65 and is rarely seen in children. Rheumatoid arthritis is commonly found in women whereas gout is another type of arthritis that is prevalent in men. Arthritis is a painful chronic condition that can be managed with medications and physical therapy but has no cure.

Symptoms and Cause

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis that can easily be diagnosed. The impact caused by a new joint injury or an unrecovered old injury is the most common cause of osteoarthritis. Even if it feels like your injury has healed once the pain subsides, the trauma endured by the cartilage or surrounding muscles weakens support to the joint and may cause osteoarthritis later in life. Overweight people are more prone to developing osteoarthritis due to the additional strain on knees and hip joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis develops as an autoimmune response due to changes in hormones, environmental factors, and medical history. Since it is an autoimmune condition it affects both sides of the same joints.

Causes of Arthritis 

There isn’t one main cause of arthritis since the symptoms differ from varying arthritis types. Certain risk factors and potential complications may increase your likelihood to develop arthritis in your lifetime.

Family History

Arthritis can be traced back to your genetic issues that run within your family. If your parents suffer from a specific type of arthritis, chances are you are likely to develop it at some point in your life as well.


Certain types of arthritis such as osteoarthritis and gout are likely to affect people as their age progresses.

Your Sex

It is observed that women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men. However, men are more likely to develop gout.


Obesity is the number one cause that puts strain on your joints and muscles resulting in medical complications. Overweight people have a greater chance of developing arthritis especially in joints such as knees, hips, and spine.

Previous Injury

Injuries or chronic illnesses increase the risk of developing arthritis in an affected area of the previously injured joint or muscles.


The most common symptom of osteoarthritis is joint pain as the over usage and deformation of cartilage reduces the padding and cushioning of joints that were once provided by the cartilage. Without the cushioning between bone joints, friction between the bones causes inflammation in the joints.

Joint mobilization such as bending of knees can make arthritis pain significantly worse. Arthritis pain may cause popping and clicking sounds in the joints and the inflammation may increase the sensitivity of joints and ligaments making it painful to touch. The pain hampers daily exercises and may worsen during strenuous physical activities such as exercising or work. The pain can be described as sharp, throbbing, prickling, and may come and go depending on the surroundings and nature of your work. Arthritis pain is usually worse in the mornings and gets better as the day progresses. Prolonged sitting, standing, or inactivity causes soreness around joints that increase pain in the joints. Arthritis pain may develop conditions of anemia or slightly elevate the body temperature.

Common symptoms of arthritis pain are first noticed in the knees such as extreme pain in the joints, stiffness, swelling and redness in the joints, and restricted movement

Benefits of Physical Therapy for Arthritis

Physical therapy helps in pain management caused by arthritis. It helps improve your range of motion, which helps in unrestricted movement of joints and muscles. Physical therapy allows physiotherapists to target the source of joint pain. Arthritis pain can be inflamed by environmental factors. Working with a trained physical therapist enables one to identify the environmental triggers and changes that need to be made to your lifestyle to lead a pain-free life. Weak muscles and joints can add to the stress on affected body parts worsening the pain while carrying out daily activities. Physical therapy helps improve muscle strength.

Range of motion

Inflamed muscles and joints cause unbearable pain that can restrict movement and hamper day-to-day activities. Osteoarthritis can make joints stiff making bending and straightening of a joint difficult and painful. Physical therapy can help improve a joint’s range of motion through incremental improvements. For example, using physical therapy to facilitate knee bending and straightening can help patients with arthritis sit and get out of a chair easily.

Muscle Strength

Osteoarthritis causes protective cartilage to wear away in a joint causing friction between bones that can be painful. Physical therapists can identify these areas with increased friction and teach you how to manage and decrease friction by strengthening muscles that support those joints. Strengthening muscles and ligaments reduces fatigue and provides stability to joints facilitating mobility.


People suffering from injury, illness, or conditions such as arthritis that cause physical pain are susceptible to balance issues due to muscle weakness, decreased joint strength and function, hampered mobility, and other musculoskeletal reasons. Balance components incorporated in your functional training allows your physiotherapist to improve your balance while working on different terrains, varying walking distances, and using elevation to help daily functionality and reduce the risk of injury due to falling.

Posture correction

Better posture aids in pain reduction in people suffering from arthritis as it takes off additional stress of the affected joints. Physical therapists play a pivotal role in helping you adjust your posture while standing, sitting, or walking. They can help you modify your posture according to your home and work environment taking into account your physical surroundings such as time spent while driving a car or taking a bus and come up with personalized exercises that help you maintain good posture. 

About the Author

Ellie Wilson is a freelance web content writer helping solopreneurs and small businesses build their online presence through friendly, long-form, and shareable blog posts. She has expertise in writing about the healthcare industry for many years. Other than writing, she enjoys traveling to adventurous places and exploring new food.
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